Portal:Australia/43 West Papuans seek asylum

This article contains an overview of Wikinews Australia coverage for a particular issue. For other issues, see in-depth coverage.

West Papuan Flag

On January 18 it was revealed that more than 40 West Papuans had departed by boat for Australia to seek asylum. They had been missing for three days. They were located the same day by Coastwatch, but it was later reported that they landed on Cape York undetected. They were subsequently transferred to the Immigration Reception and Processing Centres on Christmas Island. The Indonesian government made a request for the asylum seekers to be returned to Indonesia. Australian West Papuan advocacy groups claimed that they would face certain death if forced to return. Indonesian President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono has assured Mr Howard that the group would not be prosecuted if they were returned.

Wikinews Australia coverage


January 18

More than 40 asylum seekers are missing after fleeing the Indonesian province of Papua, bound for Australia. Coastwatch is searching the Torres Strait for the 25m boat. Four children are among the 43 people believed to be on board. The 25-metre traditional boat is believed to have left the port of Merauke, Papua, on Friday headed for Australia's Cape York peninsula. Convenor of the Australia West Papua Association Louise Byrne says the group included some of Papua's leading independence advocates. She said they were forced to undertake the journey by boat because the usual means of escaping Papua – crossing the border into Papua New Guinea – had become increasingly difficult.
Australia's coastwatch has found a missing boat which with more than 40 passengers after it had left Indonesia's Papua province, reportedly bound for Australia. Initial reports say the vessel has been spotted off Cape York, three days after it was reported missing. The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) says the boat was carrying people who left for security reasons as a campaign against Indonesian rule of the Melanesian province continues. Any application for possible asylum can only be submitted to the Australian authorities if they reach the Australian mainland. Australia operates a detention centre in Nauru to process people intercepted at sea while trying to reach Australia illegally.

January 19

A group of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers found on Cape York were herded on to an RAAF Hercules and flown to Australia's Christmas Island Detention Centre on Thursday. The Immigration Department says the single men in the group will be detained in the remote facility, and the six women and seven children will be accommodated in staff housing. The group left the Papuan port town of Merauke on Friday in an outrigger canoe and landed on Tuesday at Janey Creek, north of the Mapoon Aboriginal community on western Cape York, without being detected.

January 27

West Papuan asylum seekers who arrived in Australia last week, were forced to make a 4000 kilometre journey to Christmas Island despite suspicions they had tuberculosis. The West Papuans were herded on to an RAAF Hercules last week and flown to Christmas Island. Two of the group, a man and his child, have now been flown the 2,600 kilometres to Perth, Western Australia from the remote Indian Ocean island. Air force personnel had initially refused to fly them, concerned that the flight crew's health would be at risk.

January 31

Refugee rights advocates and Australian Parliamentarians on Christmas Island have expressed alarm at the Indonesian Government's direct request to Prime Minister John Howard for the return of 43 Papuan refugees, who arrived on Cape York by boat on January 18th. Rob Wesley-Smith from Australians for a Free West Papua said the asylum seekers escaped because their lives were threatened, and would certainly face death if forced to return. Indonesian President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono has assured Mr Howard that the group will not be prosecuted if they are returned.

February 3, 2006

Indonesia's ambassador to Australia has warned that relations between the two neighbors could be "strained" if the Howard Government grants political asylum to a group of refugees from the troubled Indonesian province of West Papua...

March 25, 2006

The Australian government has granted temporary visas to 42 West Papuan asylum seekers. The group accuse the Indonesian military of "conducting genocide in their homeland." The 36 adults and seven children spent five days at sea in a traditional outrigger boat before arriving in far north Queensland's Cape York in January. They have been since been detained under Australia's Mandatory Detention policy.

April 5, 2006

The Australian government has received reports that a family of six people from the Indonesian province of West Papua are camping on Bamboo Island in the Torres Strait. The Australian customs service is trying to verify the accuracy of the reports. It is believed that the group consists of a union activist, his wife and four children. One of the children is believed to be two months old.